Monday, May 2, 2011

What's in a Name?

Most networking classes tell you that there is no sound as appealing to someone as the sound of their own name... therefore you should use the other person's name a couple of times in conversation to help you connect more readily with them.  However, research into the power of 'Names' shows us that our names might be much more influential than we ever imagined.  Consider the following...

  • Your name can help determine your career choice.  Studies have found that people with the surname of  'Doctor' are more likely to be doctors than lawyers, while those with the surname of 'Lawyer' were more likely to be (yes, you've got it!) lawyers than doctors.  Additionally, other studies have found that even the sound of your first name can help determine (influence) your career choice.  For instance, someone named Dennis is more likely to be a Dentist than can be explained by random choice. 
  • The alphabetical order that children line up in, during their earlier years, may affect their decision-making processes.  Research just out is finding that People whose last name falls later in the alphabetical list tend to respond to opportunities more quickly than those with a surname starting earlier in the alphabet.  Lining children up according to their last name seems to program those at the end of the line to respond to offers more quickly - correcting for the inequity experienced earlier in life.
  • Results have shown that adolescents with unpopular names are more likely to engage in criminal activity.  Although not the cause of crime itself, it appears that the names of these children are connected to factors that increase the tendency to commit crime (such as treatment from peers).
  • There are strong stereotypical expectations associated with certain names, which has often been shown to lead to unconscious treatment differences amongst children.  Certain names are consistently associated with certain traits that then influence the expectations that others have of them.  Having a name that others associate with stupidity makes getting an 'A' on your term paper that much harder, research shows.
  • Name Letter Branding has a significant influence on your everyday choices.  A series of studies shows that our initials tend to influence our brand choices.  Peter will prefer Pepsi, while Carl will like Coke.  Basically put... if a brand name shares our initials, we tend to like it more.  The influence effect carries over to include where you live, towns and street names, products...  The effect is stronger when people are making their decisions based on their feelings... on how the product makes them feel.
  • In one study, student's initials were compared with their GPAs.  The result?  Students who had C or D as an initial had lower GPAs than students who had A or B as an initial.
  • In baseball, strikeouts are recorded using the letter K. In analyzing over 93 years of Major League Baseball players performances it was found that batters whose names began with a K struck out slightly more often than batters whose names did not.
The results of these studies definitely indicate that our names are much more powerful and influential than we may have realized.  Certainly, our parents likely weren't aware of the potential impact of their choices, agonizing mostly over which side of the family to name the baby after or the sound of the combination of the first and last names.  Personally... I'm glad my children are all named already and it's too late to go back!  (thankfully, they seem to have survived without a significant negative impact!).  For those of you just starting a family and in the process of selecting a name?  Well...  you might want to eliminate your pangs of guilt and 'naming' stress by purchasing a dart board and blindfold!

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